A most faithful representation of the Indian Dance at Government House, Fredericton New Brunswick on the 1st of January 1835,

© Province of New Brunswick. All Rights Reserved.

Introduction

When Europeans first arrived in Atlantic Canada, they established a trade relationship with First Nations and treaties were signed in a spirit of Peace and Friendship. In such a relationship, both sides considered themselves independent of the other and trade benefits were not the only reason for participation. There was also a belief that everything had a relationship with everything else. In the First Nation world-view, power lay in the ability to maintain many relationships and avert conflict. It was in this spirit of world-view that treaties were signed. Today, it is widely understood that neither side attempted to control the other but rather, sought to find a mutually acceptable negotiated dialogue. It was through this mutually respectful process of treaty renewals and ratifications that the Covenant Chain of Treaties was established. The earliest in the Covenant Chain of Treaties was negotiated in Boston on December 15, 1725 and signed by Mi’kmaq, Wolastokwiyik (Maliseet) and Passamaquoddy chiefs at Annapolis Royal on June 4, 1726. Over 250 years later, in 1982, treaties were entrenched in the Canadian Constitution. Such official recognition has placed a greater emphasis upon the original spirit of treaty relations and has helped in maintaining a two-hundred-year-old tradition. The Supreme Court of Canada has since recognized the validity of these treaties in two decisions: Simon (1985) and Marshall (1999). For the first time in Canadian history, treaties signed by the Wabanaki Confederacy have been upheld in the Supreme Court of Canada.


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